I sat down to write this blog with the idea that I would make a strong pitch about the importance of making the most out of your college tour. With so many Class of 2020 students hitting the road during their upcoming spring breaks, I wanted to make a strong case for doing your research before you step foot on campus.
Before I get to my pitch for all students to plan trips with the goal of finding out which school has what they are looking for, I need to address the elephant in the room – the oft-repeated question of “What do I need to do to get in?” Followed by, give me the list of schools that have published in the Common Data Set where demonstrated interest is very important. (To view admissions data and other information, Google the name of the college followed by “Common Data Set”) To me, the only valid question is “Who has want I am looking for?”
For my students who want to study the visual or performing arts, it is essential that they gain exposure to the culture of the school, the faculty that they feel could mentor them and the student work that the department produces. This is where it can be beneficial to visit a school, tour the campus, and meet with the department. For musicians, school visits are an opportunity to take a sample lesson from a faculty member. However, don’t use the lists of schools that value demonstrated interest as your guide for where to visit. And, do not decide to wait to tour schools once you have been accepted. My reasons are quite simple:
If you tour a school, even an Ivy (Ivies state that they do not count demonstrated interest), this is your chance to understand why you want to apply. If you have identified a professor whose work you admire, you can try to meet with them, or simply stop by their office hours. This type of activity will fuel your response on your application as to why you want to study in their program. A student of mine who was interested in the intersection of art and science identified a professor whose work was focused on this topic. She met with the professor while on campus and was later offered admission. This was a school that admits only 5% of its applicants. I don’t know if her connection made a difference; this school states that they do not count demonstrated interest. However, I think it is clear that when asked why she wanted to attend, her answer resonated with them.
Touring a school before you apply is critical to confirm that you may want to apply Early Decision. Applying ED to a school, you have not visited is a very poor decision that I do not recommend. Would you buy a house that you have never seen?
When you interact with students on campus, this is a far better way to get a sense of the type of student you will come in contact with once you are there. Do you like the students? Do they seem engaged? Happy to be there? Welcoming? Believe it or not, the culture and environment of a school will have a significant impact on your ability to know if a school is the right fit for you.
Visiting a variety of schools: larger public universities, smaller private schools, conservatories, and institutes is the best way to understand the options you will have for pursuing the arts as an undergraduate. If you can visit your top three or four schools that will help you to be a more informed applicant.
Now, I appreciate that not all students have the means to fly around the country and visit schools. Don’t worry, as there are many important ways to not only show demonstrated interest but also gain valuable information about a school from the comfort of your couch. Many schools participate in local college fairs, and you can fill out a card for them to scan when you meet them at the fair. You can sign up to meet admissions counselors when they visit your high school. Forming a relationship with your local rep is valuable and will prove helpful as questions arise during your application process. You can ask to meet with alumni who live near you. You can go to the school’s website and fill out a form to receive emails from them. You can subscribe to the online version of the school newspaper. You can take online tours that are often found on the college’s website.
My next blog is one that you will want to take a look at as it will give you a list of questions that I think you should ask admissions counselors when touring. And, if you can’t tour, use that list to help you with your online research or posing questions to your local rep.
Resources mentioned in this blog post: